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Why do my hamstrings hurt after ACL surgery?

Pain in Hamstring After ACL Surgery
3 minutes, 43 seconds

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the ligament that runs through the middle of the knee. When the ACL becomes injured, whether due to a sprain or tear, surgery may be necessary. During ACL surgery, part of a tendon in the hamstring is cut out and put into the knee to replace the torn ligament. Some grafts may come from deceased organ donors, while others come directly from the patient undergoing the surgery. 

A frequently reported aftereffect of ACL surgery is hamstring pain. If you or someone you know has recently undergone ACL surgery and is now dealing with hamstring pain, you can learn more about the possible causes in the paragraphs below.

What might cause pain in the hamstrings after ACL surgery?

  • Inflammation — One of the most common causes of pain after ACL surgery where a piece of the hamstring is grafted is inflammation. The hamstring will likely become inflamed as it tries to regenerate itself, which can cause swelling and most often will cause pain in that area of the body.
  • Nerve damage — Another possible cause of pain in the hamstrings after ACL surgery is nerve damage. Nerve damage is a complication that can occur from surgical procedures, and is especially a potential risk during an operation on the knee. There is the sciatic nerve that runs through the lower back, hips and legs, and the peroneal nerve that branches off the sciatic nerve. If the nerve becomes compressed or damaged, you may feel pain near your hamstrings after surgery on your knee.
  • Tendon shortening — Research has found that after the tendon in the hamstring is grafted from ACL surgery, the part of the tendon that regenerates in the leg may grow back shorter than it originally was. Patients can be left with one shorter tendon in one leg than in the other. This imbalance has the potential to affect the rest of the body and cause pain in the hamstring as a result.
  • Muscular atrophy — The result of another study done on hamstring grafts found that the hamstring muscle atrophied by almost 50% over nine to 11 years in a group of patients who had their hamstrings grafted during ACL surgery. This can also be a cause of pain in the hamstring for some patients.

What type of pain isn’t normal to feel after ACL surgery?

  • You feel new or worsening pain.
  • You lose feeling or experience tingling in your legs or feet.
  • You notice any new discoloration in your skin.
  • You experience new or worsening nausea.
  • You notice any signs of infection in a wound.

What can help with hamstring pain after ACL surgery?

  • Physical therapy — Physical therapy is an effective means of dealing with hamstring pain after an ACL surgery. Therapists are trained to work with their clients to reduce inflammation and swelling, minimize hamstring and knee pain, and maximize mobility after major surgical procedures like ACL surgery. They work within your pain threshold so that you don’t have to be subjected to any more pain than you’re already feeling. They also can help you build your muscle strength to compensate for the hamstring that has been grafted, help prevent muscular imbalances in the future, and reduce muscle loss during recovery. Physical therapists will also work with you to correct any gait problems or other side effects, like knee popping, that may arise as a result of ACL surgery. Not only can they help you work through the recovery process after surgery, but they can also be effective at preparing you for your surgery.
  • Medication — Pain medication and anti-inflammatory medication may be helpful for those who have hamstring pain after an ACL surgery. It can temporarily alleviate any pain and potentially reduce some of the inflammation that may be present in the ACL and the hamstring after the procedure.
  • Ice — Ice can be used to reduce pain and inflammation around the hamstring. If your hamstring begins to bother you after ACL surgery, using ice packs may be able to help alleviate some of that pain.
  • Elevation — Keeping your knee and leg elevated may help with hamstring pain after your ACL surgery. Elevation can help improve circulation while reducing inflammation and swelling.

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for your hamstring pain after an ACL surgery

If you’re experiencing hamstring pain after your ACL surgery, you have options. At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. 

Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you address your hamstring pain after ACL surgery. 

Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. 

Come find help for your injury or chronic condition today!